Press Release
November 20, 2011


Senator Edgardo J. Angara urged the Aquino administration to sustain investments in agriculture to bring down hunger levels in the country.

Angara, Chair of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, made the statement after the Social Weather Survey (SWS) released its third quarter report, showing that 41 percent of respondents--equivalent to 8.2 million families--claimed to be "food-poor," higher than the 36 percent recorded only three months earlier.

The data reflects an earlier SWS report that showed hunger incidence increasing between June and September of this year from 15.1 percent to 21.5 percent, hitting 4.3 million families.

"These figures highlight how many Filipinos still suffer from food insecurity. They also reveal that we have not been investing enough in boosting the productivity and resiliency of our agricultural sector," said Angara, a former Agriculture secretary. He is also the author of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA), which seeks to modernize the Philippines' agriculture sector to improve the living conditions of farmers and increase their productivity.

Government officials--including Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail D. Valte and DSWS Secretary Dinky Soliman--have attributed the increase to spikes in global commodity prices and damage caused by recent typhoons.

Between the survey period of June to September, typhoons "Egay," "Falcon," "Juaning," and "Mina" destroyed around 140,000 metric tons of paddy rice (palay) according to data from the Department of Agriculture (DA). Agricultural damage between the four typhoons amounted to almost P2 billion.

Angara noted that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has recently allotted P2.96 billion to accelerate the DA's efforts to rehabilitate or improve infrastructure and provide support services, as part of its P72 billion Disbursements Acceleration Plan (DAP).

"This significant infusion of public funds will provide a strong boost to our agriculture sector, but government should not stop there. This level of public investment should be sustained in the long-term so that we can truly address the problem of hunger in the country," explained Angara, Chair of the Congressional Commission on Science, Technology and Engineering (COMSTE).

The veteran lawmaker added, "In long run, we'd want to see the most advanced technologies like remote sensing, satellite imagery and ICT used to boost the yields and diversity of our crop lands. This is why we are pushing for P90 million of the 2012 budget to be devoted for the formation of an innovation cluster in precision farming and smart agriculture."

COMSTE has been pushing for the deployment of innovation clusters as focused partnerships among government, academe and industry for conducting research and development (R&D) for solving key national issues like food security.

"We definitely need to spend funds now to help those who were affected adversely by this year's calamities. But we also have to start investing not only in deploying the advanced technologies of today, but also in developing the new technologies we will need in feeding future Filipinos," stressed Angara.

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